Troubleshooting Google Rank Loss
You've had a great run. You've climbed and clawed your pages through the trenches of Google's page ranks and even dominated the primary keywords for 6-12 months. Your business has broken records month over month, and things could not be any better! Then tragedy hits; your number one spot is gone, your organic traffic and revenue are hemorrhaging each day, and all of your gains you've made until now vanish. You panic; you're stuck wondering what happened.
Did I do something wrong?
Did competitors attack my site with negative SEO?
Am I being penalized by Google?
You are desperate to figure out how to fix this and willing to do whatever it takes to be back on top.
Losing your rank position isn't fun and can be downright scary when it happens out of nowhere. The best thing you can do in this situation is not to panic and not do anything until you understand what caused you to lose rank in the first place. In this article, I will be going over ways to assess the damage, where to look, and remediate any issues that may have caused your content to lose rank.
Google rank - what Google giveth taketh away
No positions are safe or forever. Google's rank system is continuously evolving, and Google engineers are continually testing thousands of tweaks behind the scenes each month. While there are these nonofficial updates that go on in the background throughout the months, Google has one huge core update each year that usually impacts one or more internet categories such as news or medicine as an example in a prominent way. When these changes get implemented to the platform, rank volatility is typically an indicator, and a symptom of these changes as Google shifts sites around to try and optimize the overall user experience. However, this can disrupt a good thing you got going when your site has been outperforming in the keyword space you have been ranking for months, raking in the sweet everlasting fruits of your labor.
What is Google Search Algorithm, and How does it work?
Google search engine is just one astronomical database running on hundreds of thousands of computer servers spread worldwide, all working in tandem to answer approximately 4 million searches a minute. Algorithms is a computer program with complex rule sets, which allow you to orchestrate complex computing tasks intelligently. Google Algorithm grabs information it needs by crawling the internet with Google Bots, a subset of programs designed to crawl through a website's code to capture data to be used by the search algorithm.
Google Search Algorithm is designed with many features, things like how to differentiate a good sentence from a bad one, which content fits your question's criteria the best, and what related topics you might search next and show those suggestions. Among its countless features, Google Search Algorithm also compares each website with metrics before returning a search query. Metrics like page load speed, relevant information, and trustworthiness of the website all get factored in.
When there is an algorithm update the rank volatility from the update is not instantaneous, but rather the algorithm rule set is changed and pushed the update region to region. During this recalibration phase, Google may or may not provide lower ranking websites to be higher in rank to test its potential to the userbase. However, as Google algorithm gets more and more sophisticated, they may move toward passphrase ranking shortly and rank a specific piece of your content from an indexed page.
How do I tell if this rank change is permanent or temporary?
Remember what I mentioned earlier about not panicking? The reason, as mentioned above, is that this all could be temporary! Google will shift, mix, and match content to see if the changes are worth keeping. In many cases, Google engineers will realize a rollback is warranted, and things will go back to normal in a couple of hours or a few days. If I see a substantial piece of ranking content fluctuating, there are a couple of places I check immediately to get a birds-eye view of what may be going on.
- Moz Algorithm Change Page: Moz is an excellent SEO resource and a reputable site with tons of SEO tools and quick and accurate help. This page usually has up to date headlines of any issues or possible algorithm updates the community has seen or vetted.
- Search Engine Round Table: seroundtable has an active community with pretty quick updates and information found in the SEO community.
- Semrush Sensor: This is an excellent tool that shows volatility across the internet categories. I like using this tool to confirm if the volatility is widespread or an isolated event.
- Ahref or Moz backlink and keyword tools: Check for any sharp drops in backlinks or keywords. Losing keywords and keyword positioning is usually a symptom of losing backlinks. https://ahrefs.com/ https://moz.com
- Google Search Console: Check for any Security or Manual actions. If you see anything there, you got penalized for doing something against Google's Terms of Service.
Did competitors attack my site with negative SEO?
Blackhat SEO or negative SEO is using methods against Google webmaster guidelines to boost your page rank. Buying private blog networks with low-quality links can be used to promote a website or be used against you as a vector for an attack on your domain. Blackhat SEO agencies know low-quality URLs that link back to your domain url can hurt your rank value. Blackhat agencies will purchase a large number of these low-quality links and ultimately bring down your Domain and URL rating.
Using a monitoring platform such as Ahref, Semrush, or Moz will come in handy, diagnosing, and mitigating this type of attack. You will be able to see the backlinks that point to your site. Suppose you find many of these bad URLs contributing to your rank volatility. In that case, you can filter and export the list of bad URLs and disavow them in the Google Search console using the disavow tool, which tells Google to ignore and not penalize you for the malicious URLs.
It's not you; It's me.
Let's entertain the idea that everything above is normal for everyone, and your issue is an isolated event. You were new to the whole SEO game, and your research online provided you with information on the quickest and easiest way to rank your new website, you tested out some of the shortcuts, and it worked. You have no idea what worked or why your page is ranking, but now that progress is gone. We've all been there before. Blackhat and Grey Hat SEO techniques like link buying and keyword stuffing are the days of the past. Google algorithm is becoming sentient (not really) and already accounts for things like this. You may be lucky and slip by, but ultimately you will get caught and get penalized, even worse de-listed. SEO is a marathon and not a sprint, and when this is realized, and SEO is done correctly (listed below), you will generate ad-free organic revenue for years to come.
Stick to Google's Webmaster Guidelines
As silly as it may sound to reiterate, you should be sticking to Google's Webmaster Guidelines. Google provides fundamental principles and specific guidelines on what and what not to do. If you violate one or more of these guidelines and get caught for it, you will feel the pain of being penalized by Google.
Don't Buy Bad Links!
Backlinks from other websites to your site show Google that your content or business is trustworthy and has expert level information to the userbase. However, purchasing or selling backlink is strictly against Google's webmaster guidelines, and this can be a quick route to getting your page or domain de-listed!
Talk to your audience; be relevant!
As mentioned earlier, the days of keyword stuffing and tricking algorithms are over. Google is looking for relevant content that provides value to the masses. This is something Google continually works on and causes the most volatility among content rank. There are no shortcuts here; the winning formula to ranking and gaining organic traction is to create content that helps the audience in one shape or form.
Navigating digital marketing lands can be treacherous, with many predatory practices with too many guarantees for that number one spot. SEO is a laborious effort and continuously evolving with the changing functionalities of the Google algorithm. However, it can be the most lucrative revenue generator for your online business when done right without the need to spend any money on ads. Apex Media Group has a proven track record of utilizing Whitehat SEO techniques to its max potential. Schedule a free consult and get a free SEO competitive analysis today.
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